France: Court rules that Twitter must hand over details of homophobic and anti-semitic users

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Twitter has been ordered by a French court to hand over details of users who posted anti-semitic tweets, in what could be a significant move against homophobia, racism and anti-semitism in the country.

The Paris High Court ruled that Twitter must give details of users who posted offensive messages on the microblogging site, at the request of several anti-hate groups.

This comes after the the French Government recently suggested that Twitter should be fighting against homophobic, anti-semitic and racist tweets that potentially break its laws on hate speech.

In recent months, offensive hashtags have begun to trend including #SiMonFilsEstGay (if my son was gay), – users who used them speculated on the what pain, torture or other degrading treatment they would inflict on a gay child or other relative.

Others included #UnBonJuif (a good Jew), #UnJuifMort (a dead Jew), #SiMaFilleRameneUnNoir (if my daughter brings home a black man) and #SiJetaisNazi (if I were a Nazi) where users listed various fascist or racist acts they would perform.

Twitter could face fines of up to $1,300 (£825) for each day they fail to hand over details of the users’, if requested by the groups who sought the ruling, who have said they will not hesitate to do so.

As well as the fines, the court ordered twitter to set up a system in France to make it easier for users to flag illegal content. Under French law, people found guilty of inciting racial hatred can be jailed for a year, and fined.

“This is an excellent decision, which we hope will bring an end to the feeling of impunity that fuels the worst excesses,” said Stephane Lilti, lawyer for the groups who sought the ruling, reports Reuters.

The BBC reports that a spokesperson for Twitter said: “We are currently reviewing the court’s decision.”

The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism said: “This marks a decisive step forward in the battle against racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic offences on the Internet,

“Nobody can ignore French law, not even the giants of the American digital economy.”

“It is a major precedent and breakthrough in the attempt to balance privacy online with the need to combat hate speech,” Sacha Reingewirtz, vice president of the students’ union, told JTA.

Last year the University of Albertaʼs Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services published Twitter tracking figures to show that the word “faggot” was used more than 2.5 million times between July and September 2012. In just one week, it was in 219,000 tweets.

Earlier this week, the Church of England received criticism after its official Twitter account tweeted a joke about Katie Price in response to a question about its opposition to equal marriage.